The Latest On Cuban Outfielder Luis Robert

There should be some high-ranking club officials in the Dominican Republic this week. That’s because on Thursday, Luis Robert will have his first open showcase, giving teams their first open opportunity to watch the talented young Cuban outfielder since he arrived in the Dominican Republic.

Robert, 19, is still waiting for Major League Baseball to declare him a free agent. That timing is critical, both for Robert and the teams that could potentially sign him. The current 2016-17 signing period closes on June 15. Up until that point, there is no hard cap on signing bonuses, so while Robert is subject to the international bonus pools, there isn’t an absolute ceiling on what a team could potentially offer him. However, once the 2016-17 signing period closes, the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement kick into place. Those rules set a hard cap on the bonus pools, with teams getting either $4.75 million, $5.25 million or $5.75 million in their pool, with some wiggle room to trade for extra pool space.

With teams having already unofficially committed large portions of their upcoming 2017-18 bonus pools to players they plan to sign on July 2, it’s advantageous for Robert to be cleared as quickly as possible. If Robert can get cleared to sign before June 15 (which seems likely given his timetable, though with MLB and international players, there isn’t much transparency to work with), the teams already over their bonus pools would be in the best position to sign him. That includes the Padres and Cardinals, two teams that have been the most aggressive spending this signing period with international players in general with several Cuban signings for each club.

The Astros, Braves, Nationals, A’s and Reds are also over their bonus pools. If, for some reason, MLB does not clear Robert to sign until after June 15, those teams would essentially be eliminated from signing Robert, since they would be in the first year of a two-year penalty of being unable to sign any international amateur player for more than $300,000. The White Sox are not over their bonus pool, but they consistently come up in conversations as a team to watch for Robert.

At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Robert has a promising combination of physicality, athleticism, tools and game performance. That performance has come in Cuba against his peers, at several international youth tournaments and in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, which he was leading in both OBP and slugging in the 2016-17 season before he left to pursue a contract with a major league team. Read more about Robert and his skill set here.

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